Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Leatherstocking tails

One of the areas of the country that seems the most likely for an aspiring farmer is in Western New York. Really. One can buy 100 acres of more or less flat arable land with a 3 bedroom house and a barn for under $300,000. Many places even come with free natural gas for heating and cooking!

So, what's the downside? For me in particular, it's so far away. How can we inspect properties, check out houses, talk to the neighbors, when it's 1500 miles away. That means a trip. Actually, we were all set to go there last year, and visit my wife's uncle and cousins (her parents are from the area). I had the time off, we were just about to start making hotel reservations for the drive, when the van broke down. Two weeks, $3500 and a new transmission later, we gave up on that trip. Right now, our money is likely going into a pair of work horses and paying off bills, so it'll be next year before we could actually get out there.

There are 4 dioceses in the area we're talking about, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Ogdensberg. The Ogdensberg diocese is north of the Adirondacks, bordering Vermont. While it's a beautiful area, it's not got a lot of available farm land. The Syracuse diocese consists of the uplands between the Hudson river valley and the Allegheney and Appalachian plateaux. It includes most of the Finger Lakes region. While there's lots of good land here, it's close enough to NYC to drive prices up through the roof, particularly in the eastern areas. Some of the western cities, such as Syracuse and Binghamton do have tech industries, which means I could get a well-paying job there, if need be.

The Rochester diocese runs in a strip from Rochester on Lake Ontario south to include most of the Genesee river valley. The problem here is the bishop, specifically Matthew Clark, Bishop of Rochester. Clark is one of the most liberal bishops in the world, and has been actively driving away orthodox priests from his diocese for going on 30 years. He has 5 years left in his episcopate. My wife's uncle and his family live in Steuben county and are on the southwest corner of the Rochester Diocese (not that it would matter to them, as they're Presbyterians).

The Buffalo diocese occupies the western 1/4 of the state, from Wyoming county to Allegany. Bishop Kmiec is relatively new, but appears orthodox. Land, at least away from Buffalo, is fairly, often very cheap. This is where we're looking in NY. One good place I've found to search for properties is the Western Steuben-Allegany MLS.
With a little imagination, you can even figure out how long a parcel has been listed with them.

The other difficulty in buying land in Western NY is the taxes. Taxes are set individually by school districts, fire districts, water districts, towns, villages, cities, townships, and counties. there is no consistency from place to place, A parcel of 200,000 value will be taxed $1200 in one place, and $5000 only a few miles away. Add to that the state income tax, and you can see why farmers are being driven out of the state. In fact, taxes are the likely reason land prices are so low in NY state to begin with. It pays to be very careful to check everything out with the county auditor before you buy.


  1. Hi Danby,

    I just found your blog while doing a search for anyone commenting on the recent happenings in the Diocese of Rochester.

    Yes, we're pretty much the poster child for liberal/progressive Catholicism here and the diocese is in a sad state because of it. Bishop Clark has 4 years, 3 months and 17 days left until he turns 75 and some of us, as you can see, are counting down the days.

    Recent developments here include the bishop's decision to close 13 of the 24 Catholic elementary schools in Monroe County and that's got many of us in an uproar.

    Also, a local columnist and friend of the bishop just published a page 1 story in the Democrat and Chronicle that gives the decline in the diocese just about the best favorable spin possible. See
    if you're interested.

  2. Mike,
    I've stopped following the careers of the hirelings in episcopal office. I was born into the diocese of Hunthausen, who was so bad he was actually deposed, albeit in a nice, quiet, non-public way. Ostensibly he retired due to health problems, but he's outlived one bishop of Seattle, and may well outlive a second. It's a shame that so many of these (deleted) (deleted) (deleted adjective) (deleted) brigands were appoint so young. Your own Clark, for instance. And the worse part is that the clergy will have been turned into a reflexively liberal functionally apostate mess by the time he retires. Look at Minneapolis and Chicago, and my own hometown to see how long it takes to set things right. What took 35 years to destroy will not be rebuilt overnight.

  3. Amen, brother.

    Before he got here Matthew Clark had about 11 years experience as a student, professor, and spiritual director, 5 years as an assistant pastor, an 0 years as an actual pastor. He says that he's learned on the job. The results say otherwise.

    We're pretty much mission territory here. Please keep us in your prayers.

  4. Danby-South Carolina is even farther away from you, but land prices are probably even cheaper. The whole state is one diocese. We are between bishops now, but our last (Bishop Robert Baker -now of Birmingham) was a good one. The diocese is in mixed shape, but our young priests are fantastic.

    The three major cities also have regular TLM's (weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly).

    Taxes are cheap. The soil isn't as rich as the Northeast (or probably the Northwest).

    Another alternative.


  5. Hello. I just found your blog (linked from Domine Non Sum Dignus) and sounds like you are trying to figure out the same thing I am. I have given a lot of thought to Western NY too, but I used to live there, and still have some family out that way, so it's a different situation for me.

    If you are willing to make due with a more modest sized farm (20 acres or so) you could probably find something for under 100k.

    But we have pretty much ruled it out for ourselves. The taxes are one problem (though any where is better than NJ where I am now). It is also a very liberal state, so it's hard to say what things will be like 10 years down the road.

    And you won't find many many options for a traditional latin mass, if that is important for you. If you don't mind going to an SSPX chapel there are a few more options especially around Syracuse.

  6. I too have given quite a bit of thought to the Catholic community idea, but WHAT about the idea of Catholic community by attrition?

    What I mean is this, take a town where home prices are fairly low - with an excellent orthodox Catholic parish/order nearby, then buy up homes around it (1-2 square mile radius or so) and voila! Catholic community! I know just the town, in fact I live in it. The homes of which I speak are of the older variety, 2 to 3 story, some need fixing up but lots of character, very reasonable prices, perfect for large Catholic families. And, I'm not a realtor :)

    If you are interested, click on my name here, look at my profile and email me.